Tuesday, April 9, 2013

March Madness Day 10: The Game

Louisville 82, Michigan 76
If you watched the Final Four games, you saw a each team's slightly lesser-played version of this game.

Louisville: They start the game out slowly. They try to focus their offense around Siva's and Smith's penetration, but the opposing team's defense is stout enough to head it off. They give up a ton of offensive rebounds despite not being at a size disadvantage, and they aren't really able to set the pace and turn the other team over. In the second half things change. All of a sudden their offense gets going, they hit a few threes and now the driving lanes open up. Louisville starts getting offensive rebounds of their own, and their faster pace starts to take its toll on the other team.

Michigan: They start out fast. For one half of play, they scheme and execute a brilliant offensive game plan, which includes some ridiculously long range three point shots. As you're watching it, you're thinking, "They can't possibly keep this up"...but when the first half ends they show no signs of slowing down and you start questioning yourself. Then the second half rolls around and all of a sudden Michigan's defense starts looking like the defense of a team with a distinct size disadvantage. The other team is upping the pressure and smothering the long range shot attempts, and all of a sudden Michigan's offense goes from beautiful to stagnant. Either Michigan makes enough plays down the stretch to hang on, or they don't. On Saturday, they did. Last night, they did not.

Michigan looked ready to run away with things in the first half, thanks first to Trey Burke's first fast start of the tournament (he scored Michigan's 1st 7 points) and then thanks to reserve Spike Albrecht's three point shooting clinic (he made 4 threes in the first half). And Michigan would have gone into halftime with a sizable lead...except Louisville's reserve Luke Hancock hit 4 threes of his own in the final 4 minutes of the first half. I'll be honest, the first thing that popped into my head when Hancock started doing his three thing was, this is exactly how Louisville got back in the Wichita State game...why weren't we seeing Hancock do his thing in the first 16 minutes of this game?

Again, I'm not really sure how Michigan was able to throttle VCU (who is maybe the most committed to pressure defense in the nation) in their second game of the tournament, and then looked so bad (vs Syracuse) and uneven (against Louisville) against pressure D in the Final Four. Sure opposition talent level makes a difference, but at some point ball-handling is ball-handling.

The refereeing wasn't good in this game, but I don't think you can say it favored one team over the other. Michigan might have come out slightly on the short end of the stick in this regard, but it certainly was not the difference in the game. For two games in a row Michigan lost the battle of the halftime adjustments, and this time it caught up with them.

The best part of this game It was tremendously entertaining, especially the first half. In the second half, especially the latter stages, Michigan's offense turned into the Trey Burke show. That was enough to keep the game close, but not enough to get Michigan ahead once Louisville took the lead. As Celinda put it, Louisville was playing team ball while Michigan was waiting for an individual to make a play.

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